The new year has dawned with a number of cross-border payment pacts, done across blockchain and other means.
In Pakistan, as reported by Coindesk, Telenor Microfinance Bank and remittance firm Valyou Sdn Bhd (a Telenor subsidiary) have launched a payment platform based on Alipay’s blockchain offerings.
That blockchain technology, in turn, had been developed by Ant Financial Services Group. The site said the pact is one that looks to streamline remittances between Pakistan and Malaysia.
“At around USD 20 billion per year, international remittances are important from the perspective of overall macroeconomic stability and their positive spillover in improving lives of millions of families,” said Tariq Bajwa, governor of the State Bank of Pakistan. “Home remittances contributed to over 6 percent in GDP, equivalent to over 50 percent of our trade deficit.”
In other blockchain-related cross-border news, Ripple said that 13 additional financial firms have signed onto RippleNet, a payment network offered by the firm. The new adherents include Euro Exim Bank, SendFriend, JNFX, FTCS, Ahli Bank of Kuwait, Transpaygo, BFC Bahrain, and others. The tally of firms that have embraced RippleNet now stands at more 200. Five of the 13 newly announced participants are using the digital asset known as XRP (which is in turn 60 percent owned by Ripple) to source liquidity as it is demanded. This, the firm hopes, will help sidestep pre-funding requirements that are part of international transactions. For companies that are not using XRP, said Ripple, APIs can help speed payments and lower costs while boosting transparency.
“In 2018, nearly 100 financial institutions joined RippleNet, and we’re now signing two — sometimes three — new customers per week. We also saw a 350 percent increase last year in customers sending live payments, and we’re beginning to see more customers flip the switch and leverage XRP for on-demand liquidity,” said Brad Garlinghouse, CEO of Ripple. “At the end of the day, our goal is to make sure our customers can provide excellent, efficient cross-border payments experiences for their customers, wherever they are in the world.”
The Ripple news comes a few days after the National Bank of Kuwait became the first financial institution there to implement ACI Worldwide’s Swift Global Payment Innovation technology. As has been reported, the gpi allows real-time cross-border payments, and through ACI, lets 300 member banks send payments cross-border and in real time.
Separately, a US Bancorp subsidiary said this week that it has become the first dedicated payments provider to connect to the U.K.’s Faster Payments service. As has been reported, the payments scheme is on 365/24/7 to complete payments in real time.
Elavon said that previously only major banks, among some other enterprises, had access to the Faster Payments service; now — in collaboration with the Bank of England and HM Treasury — the service has been expanded to new markets and players. Elavon, the company said, can now process up to 250,000 pounds per transaction. The tally now stands at 25 financial firms participating in Faster Payments.
Here in the states — serving the integrated payment needs of government and utility verticals — Paya said it bought First Billing Services for nearly $58 million. The combined entity will help independent sales organizations (ISOs), independent software vendors (ISVs) and other enterprises lay the technical groundwork for end users to pay their bills for government services by check, interactive voice response, phone or even text message.
“This is about being a one-stop shop — and having integrations to the different platforms allows [utilities] to have these offerings from end to end,” he added, where software and processing capabilities are outsourced, as Paya President Greg Cohen told PYMNTS. Outsourcing to a third-party provider, said Cohen, also helps governments boost operational efficiencies as they improve collection activities and shorten the time it takes to turn receivables into cash.
Consider the fact, as First Billing noted on its site, that more than 50 percent of calls to its customers are to inquire about bills. Those calls last an average of three minutes, and two of those minutes are related to payments themselves. First Billing deals with that portion of the call, it said, which in turn helps staff productivity. First Billing will continue to operate under its existing brand, the companies said on Tuesday.